Saturday, May 18, 2024
HomePasture HealthForageBest of OP - Great "Grass Farmers" Grow Roots

Best of OP – Great “Grass Farmers” Grow Roots

If you go to enough workshops about grazing, you’re bound to see an illustration that shows how biting off the tops of plants impacts their roots, and how if you graze short enough, the plant won’t have enough roots to rebound and produce more leafy material. In fact, if you’ve been with us at On Pasture for any length of time, you’ll have seen a version of that illustration. It looks like this:


In addition to losing the ability to feed your livestock, short roots can’t hold the soil in place, let alone do their job of feeding soil microorganisms, creating a sponge to hold water, and pulling carbon from the air deep, deep into the soil where it can be sequestered. It’s that depth that makes the difference between carbon that “breathes” back and forth between the soil and the atmosphere, and carbon that is actually held long term.

So what do we mean by deep? Well, it turns out that many plants and icebergs have something in common. What you see above the surface is very small compared to what’s below.  And now, thanks to Jerry Glover, who’s an agroecologist from Kansas, and Jim Richardson, a National Geographic photographer, you can get a good idea of the depths roots go to to do their jobs. You can read about the techniques they used to create these photos here, but what we’d like you to focus on is how far down into the earth you’re managing when you move your livestock across a pasture. Take a look:

Here's Dr. Jerry Glover next to a 14 foot tangle of Indian grass, compass plant, and big bluestem grass he grew.
Here’s Dr. Jerry Glover next to a 14 foot tangle of Indian grass, compass plant, and big bluestem grass he grew.
Missouri Goldenrod…which by the way is quite a nice forage!
Missouri Goldenrod…which by the way is quite a nice forage!

(For more pictures, head on over to the full article.)

You’re seeing The Best of OP because On Pasture is on break this week. In addition to “The Best of OP” articles we also left you these hints for searching our 2,800 article archive to find just what you need.

Your Tips Keep This Library Online

This resource only survives with your assistance.

Kathy Voth
Kathy Voth
I am the founder, editor and publisher of On Pasture, now retired. My career spanned 40 years of finding creative solutions to problems, and sharing ideas with people that encouraged them to work together and try new things. From figuring out how to teach livestock to eat weeds, to teaching range management to high schoolers, outdoor ed graduation camping trips with fifty 6th graders at a time, building firebreaks with a 130-goat herd, developing the signs and interpretation for the Storm King Fourteen Memorial trail, receiving the Conservation Service Award for my work building the 150-mile mountain bike trail from Grand Junction, Colorado to Moab, Utah...well, the list is long so I'll stop with, I've had a great time and I'm very grateful.


  1. Hello Kathy, sometime ago I wrote you about our silvopasture project in Northern Guatemala-Peten.Climate conditions today are so different than last time I wrote you that we have been forced to introduce new pastures in our forests to sustain cattle. Natural pastures of the area could not feed our cows and did very bad with the new hotter weather and longer periods of dryness in the area. We are planting Mombasa pasture which is quite resistant to shade from our trees. We will know if they work out well in about a year.
    Enjoy reading On Pasture very much.


    Ricardo Zachrisson

Comments are closed.

Welcome to the On Pasture Library

Free Ebook!

Latest Additions

Most Read